The Only 4 Arpeggios You Need To Play (Most) Jazz Standards

Jazz can seem like a complicated minefield of chord symbols and impenetrable music theory.

However, it doesn't have to be like that.

When you understand how a major scale is harmonised and what chords (or arpeggios) you get, you're a long way to being able to play many jazz standards.

If you're new to jazz, check out my post: 10 Easy Jazz Songs For Bass Players.

This lesson will teach you how to harmonise a major scale and the four qualities of chord you get from doing that:

  1. Major 7
  2. Minor 7
  3. Dominant 7
  4. Minor 7 b5

Scroll down for a really useful exercise and a diagram outlining the arpeggio shapes (you can find a PDF with the shapes here).

Jazz Bass Arpeggios

First, you need to harmonise a major scale. Here's an image that will help you easily visualise what's going on when we harmonise a scale (C Major in this example).

bass guitar arpeggios

This is a brilliant little exercise you can do daily to memorise the arpeggios that come from a scale. Just take a look at the picture above and run through the arpeggios going from C up the notes of the scale.

A full exercise based on this plus lots more like it can be found in my book Creative Bass Technique Exercises.

Going back to the diagram above, try to memorise the patterns and the intervals that make each arpeggio. Then run them up and down the neck. You can also play them as chords which is a lot of fun and will get you thinking about writing music too...

Make sure to study these lessons too:

Jazz Standards, Walking Bass & Chart Reading (Autumn Leaves)

Learn A Simple Walking Jazz Bassline

Then, it's all about putting into practice! You do this by playing and using the information from my lessons. Playing through easy jazz standards is a good way to start.

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